A spiritual journey with reference significance
——Interview with H.E. Ambassador Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE of The Republic of Benin to China
By Xu Chengzhi Pei Andi China Investment
Since 2016, I have visited Henan province 4 times, Henan’s rapid development has impressed me. Through our visit to this trip, to meet people, to listen to them, to understand what they’re doing, it makes a total difference. I realized that works in one place may not work in another place, because they have different cultural backgrounds and you need to start from the actual situation in each place to find the feasible ideas.” His Excellency Simon ADOVELANDE, Ambassador of Benin to China, said in an interview with the Chinese investment reporter about the event of “African Envoys to the Grassroots”.
Deeply impressed by Henan
China Investment: I am aware of that you have visited many provinces in China. Compared with them, what aspects of this trip to Henan have left you a deep impression?
Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE：Yes, I was so lucky that I already visited 14 provinces in China in two years. And for me, each province has its own characteristics. You never find two provinces in China which have the same characteristics because most of the time, I always spend time to go to the museum anytime that I go to a province, I learn a little bit about the history of the province. For me, Henan is a concentration of the past, the present and the future.
When we visited the Museum of China Writing in Anyang, we saw one of the key components of the civilization of China, the Chinese writing down from the past dynasties.
When you look at that Museum, the whole history of the writing of China, you can understand that one of the key components of the development of China is the continuation of the writing. That kept the civilization, the history, but also how one nation can have at the end, one language uniting everybody. That is one of the challenges of Africa. Each country, from one country to the other, it’s difficult to communicate.
Like it here, China have more than 1 billion people who speak the same language and write the same language. That is the key of the civilization,one of keys of the civilization, and I learnt that in that museum. Actually, this is my fourth visit to Henan province, but it is also my most profound experience.
⬆African Envoys Visited Museum of China Writing in Anyang
The unique culture and spirit of Henan
China Investment: Compared with your previous visits to Henan province, what major changes have taken place in Henan?
Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE：Firstly, this visit was organized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and my counterparts are all diplomatic envoys of African countries. We went to several cities in Henan and visited different areas of the province, and they all left a fresh impression. The first time I went to Henan was in 2016. The provincial capital, Zhengzhou, was a modern city. Since Zhengzhou is a trading hub, we had seen infrastructure such as busy airports and many new roads. This time I went to see a lot of new buildings and infrastructure there, indicating that they have developed very fast in just two years.
Then, we visited the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang City, which let you experience the firm determination of the faith, because the people at that time were carving on such a mountain, it is really amazing. This requires not only faith and determination, but also the emperor or leader at that time must have a magnificent vision and the support of the people to create such a miraculous miracle. Then we went to visit the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese martial arts, and it was amazing. There are not only many tourists, but also students studying martial arts from all over the world. I met students from countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Germany. Why did they go to the temple to study in a thousand miles? Isn’t it also a spiritual pursuit? Then there was Anyang and we visited the Red Flag Canal. The 1,500-kilometer artificial canal passes through the mountains! It’s incredible. I believe that it fully reflects the courage and strength of the Chinese people to work hard in the face of challenges.
There is also Lankao, where we learned about Jiao Yulu’s life. As a leader, he changed the face of the local community and helped people get rid of poverty. I think he set an example for other officials. His spirit of serving the people is worth learning. He was still very young at the time, facing the challenges, but he did it, very admirable. I am from Benin and our country is facing the challenge of poverty. Therefore, the experience of Jiao Yulu and Lankao can be used for reference. The earth-shaking changes they have made are also worth learning.
The experience of poverty alleviation and industrial development
China Investment: As you mentioned the efforts of the people of Lankao to get rid of poverty and your country is also working hard to get people out of poverty. Does the experience of poverty alleviation in Lankao have any significance to Benin?
Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE：Especially when I look at some areas in Henan Province, when I looked at the mountains, they remind me of the northern part of Benin. We have the similar area that has a lot of mountains. There’s similar terrain, but the poverty rate is higher in the country. I can see how, even though they are surrounded by mountains, they can still manage to bring people out of poverty and make the mountains a source of development. Because when you go to Lankao, you see that not only they are building infrastructures but the city has become a place of tourism through the music instrument. It’s a demonstration on how you can take your normal environment and transform it as an income source. It’s amazing. I went to the place where they made the music instrument and all those ladies and people who are working, the place becomes famous. Then people come from abroad, it’s becoming a source of tourism. And for me, it’s very inspiring to see that you can transform your natural challenge into the benefits of the people as shown in the example.
It’s also the vision of the leader. What I discovered is, the leaders are so connected to the people, they identify themselves with the people and then, when they bring solution, they have the people join them because the people identify themselves with the leaders and the leaders identify with them. It became a challenge for everyone, and then together, they face the challenge and find the solution. You cannot have people, even the leader, to work alone to deal with the challenge. The leader needs the people to agree with him on what he suggested. But it’s happened only when the leader identify himself with the people. And people trust him because they regard him as their own people and that is what I find in the local. After that, I read a lot about Jiao Yulu. I think he’s somebody that gets the attention of the people because he cares for the people. And people see him as a leader not just because he is the party representative but he’s their own people. It’s the sacrifice he went through and people saw that, it made a difference. And it’s something that touched me a lot.
China Investment: During this trip to Henan, African envoys also visited the industrial park and enterprises in Henan Province, do you think there is any experience in these areas for African countries to learn from?
Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE：One of the lessons I gained during my visit to Henan was agricultural development. We visited a tractor manufacturer and learned about its history. The purpose of the factory they built in the past was to meet the needs of agricultural development. This is a place for us to learn. I think we can cooperate in this area. Zhengzhou has now become a transportation hub in central China, and various infrastructures, including airports, have connected all parts of China. Therefore, cooperation in agricultural products can be carried out. We held an economic forum with some companies in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. Some companies in Henan have started business cooperation with some African countries, although not in Benin. Therefore, now we have to learn from their successful experiences. At the moment, we have established contacts with a number of agribusinesses and e-commerce companies to see what we can do together. One of the purposes of this trip is to learn and identify opportunities to work with Henan Province.
In addition, most of our African countries will think about the development of southern China, such as Guangzhou, but I think we should pay more attention to Zhengzhou in terms of e-commerce, trade cooperation and air transportation hubs. We visited the Zhengzhou International Commodity Exchange Center and which can be used for import and export. Moreover, Henan Province has great potential for development in the field of e-commerce. Therefore, the Embassy hopes to continue to explore what kind of cooperation Benin and Henan can develop in developing e-commerce. I even plan to go again and talk to them about how our country and the embassy should cooperate with them to promote the development of both sides.
In addition, we visited one hospital, that one also was a great experience. To see how China, takes care and manages the health system, because I was always wondering how they can give healthcare to such a big number of people. That is part of my question, that I can see in reality how the system functions and it requests a lot of attention from the government in terms of infrastructure, in terms of equipment, in terms of the software to manage all the system. And for me, it’s something that we have to learn from. Also in Henan, they have the experience of working together with African countries and sent abroad doctors in Africa. Especially, the China Medical Team, It’s amazing. That shows also the heart of sharing from Chinese people to others. You know you can see that, when China goes out is not for war but is for sharing. Sharing prosperity, but also sharing the care for others. And for me, that one also was a great experience. Even I write a note to my minister of health, to see how we can organize the trip for the people from Benin to come, just to visit. To go around and to learn. Thank you for reminding me of that, and I was so excited about the trip.
Expectations after the FOCAC
China Investment: On a higher level, Eight Initiatives were put forward at the FOCAC held in Beijing in 2018. 2019 is the first year of implementation of these action plans, what are your expectations for this??
Simon Pierre ADOVELANDE: The first expectation is we have the opportunity this year in June to have the first economic and trade forum and expo in Changsha in June. For me, it is a very great platform which came after the discussion, the political discussion in the forum last September. We have now a concrete aspect that we can discuss and start to work on. Because, for me, trade is the key for the implementation. For many years, we focus on infrastructure but we need to come to trade and people to people cooperation. And for me, my expectation for this year is the forum in Changsha, the economic and trade forum in Changsha. For me, it’s the good starting point to start with concrete action. The FOCAC is the framework but we need now to break it down and think about the the impact of it.
For me, trade and people to people exchange is really the key. Then my expectation is very huge for that forum in June. But before that is to see those areas that we don’t takea it into account most of the time because like I mentioned, we are most focused on infrastructure and I think at that level, China is doing a great job. This time, we need to move further, how to have more impact on people. And I’ve seen three areas, the first one is education. You know at this time, China is suggesting giving a scholarship for people to come and study in China but I think we need also more attention in vocational professional training. Because most of our countries are now building infrastructure, the tourism and industrial park but to work in industrial park, we need skill. The local people need skill to be available for the industries. Then we need to focus now in the training of those people. And China has developed those past 40 years, a lot of training, a lot of skill, in terms of industrialization. Then that is one aspect. The second aspect that I think is a cultural aspect, People to People. The idea that I have towards China before I come as Ambassador, has totally changed when I came here, visiting people, understanding the culture of China. Both sides, they know each other through media and the internet. And there’s not through China and not the through Africa. We need now to have more cooperation in culture, people to people. That will get more understanding for both sides. The better we know each another, better we work together and achieve greater results. And for me that is very important. If you want to make the FOCAC successful, this FOCAC result successful, we need to get more people to people relationship and for me it’s the key for both sides. And then the last one will be how we take experience of the poverty alleviation. That have been done in China, here this past year. How we can learn from that and apply, in our countries. And through the trip, the study tour but also through the local government cooperation, etc. Benin start with one experience now with the province of Yunnan Province. After the FOCAC, my president visited Yunnan Province, and now we want to develop a local cooperation between Benin and Yunnan Province. To break it down to the level of local administration. Those are the areas that I think for this FOCAC, we need to focus more on those aspects, People to People, local government involvement, that we make more impact for me to meet the people on the ground.
⬆African Envoys Visited the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University